Mike Stephan is a rugged outdoorsman who lives life on his own terms. With the help of HomeCare & Hospice, his terminal cancer diagnosis isn’t going to change that.
The home he shares with his wife, Peggy Veiteman, is lined with deer he harvested and mounted, as well as antlers and the pelts of foxes and coyotes. The tall, robust-looking figure of a man wears several tattoos he created himself.
In March 2011, Mike learned, in the course of a routine medical procedure, that he had cancer. He started treatment right away, riding his motorcycle to the procedure and then going to work. He lost the long hair and beard that had been a source of pride for him. Three months ago, he learned the cancer was still progressing and his prognosis was about three more months – maybe a little longer with more treatment.
“That’s when we called Hospice,” he said. “We just had a friend die of lung cancer and he was faithful about going and getting the treatment. I decided if they couldn’t cure me, I didn’t want it. I wanted to have hair on my head and a beard on my face.”
The Hospice program provides skilled nursing care, social work, spiritual care, home health aides and trained volunteers, as well as pain and symptom control and medical supplies related to terminal illness. The agency focuses on quality of life.Hospice team members are working to support Mile’s goal of staying as active as he can and living his life his way.
“Most people say that he doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with him, but a year ago his skin was gray and he had lost his hair. He looked 20 years older. Now he has his hair and beard again and that cute face is back,” said Peggy.
He added, “Hospice has been great and I’d need the help. They get me my cough medicine, and other medication, and they’ve been a lot of help to Peggy.”
He receives regular visits from nurse Tammy Jedrosko and counselor Amy Snyder.
“Amy has been a lot of help to me – especially with the paperwork for disability. I’ve been a factory worker for most of my life. I don’t know a lot about paperwork,” said Peggy.
Mike and Peggy have been friends since childhood and have been married for four years. Their portraits can be found side-by-side in their fourth-grade class pictures. They worked together at Acme Electric until the company closed a few years ago.
Mike only recently stopped working, after learning that company was also closing its doors. He and his wife are spending as much time together as they can. Because Peggy also has health issues, he has agreed to allow a hospice aide to come in for a few hours a week to help with care.
Though he concedes has been a little more tired of late, Mike remains very active. “The doctors told me I had about three months and we’re just about at the three-month mark and I’m still going. Nobody really knows how long they have,” he said.
“We’re hoping for one more hunting season,” said Peggy.
For more information on Hospice services, call 1-800-719-7129 or visit http://www.homecare-hospice.org.
HomeCare & Hospice, a non-profit United Way member agency, provides specialized medical care and social/emotional support for patients and families coping with terminal illness in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, and Genesee counties. The cost is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurances, and public support, such as the United Way. The institution is an equal opportunity provider, and employer.